MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program Kicks Off at Duke University

Duke University has welcomed 21 participants of the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF), a leadership development program organized through the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative of the U.S. State Department. The program provides early- and mid-career professionals from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with the opportunity to gain academic and practical experience in leadership training and leadership development, network with like-minded peers and professionals, and build on skills in conflict resolution, participatory governance and communication. Emerging leaders have come together from seven countries across the MENA region for both an academic component at a University and a practice-based component in Washington, D.C.

The Duke Center for International Development (DCID) is this year’s academic partner for the program and participants, called Fellows, will be based at the Sanford School of Public Policy from July 29 through August 25. While at Duke, Fellows will learn from a diverse group of Sanford faculty and other experts and will have the opportunity to complete a capstone project at the end of the program.

Over the course of four weeks, Duke faculty and staff will facilitate Fellows’ learning about analyzing problems, engaging stakeholders, building coalitions, negotiating conflicts, organizing projects and teams, and utilizing communication tools. Classroom lectures will be supplemented with field visits to local government offices, NGOs, neighborhoods, and museums like the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro.

DCID Executive Director Jon Abels says that the combination of traditional lectures and field-based experiences provides important context to the learning. “There are many parallels between civic engagement in the Middle East and in the U.S., such as the civil rights movement which has a strong presence here in North Carolina. We always try to build in relevant local field visits into our training and education programs because we’ve found that exposure to local governments and community groups helps participants draw meaning from the similarities, and the differences, in what they’re doing at home.”

The LDF program supports approximately 44 civic and community leaders each year (22 in the English program, which is based in the U.S., and 22 in the Arabic program, which is based in Lebanon) to more effectively address current political and social challenges in their communities. Through increased civic engagement and dialogue, leadership development and an enhanced understanding of the way public and private resources interface for the common good, the program develops cadres of professionals who have both theoretical and practical knowledge of democratic governance and systems. By the end of the program, LDF Fellows acquire the skills necessary to successfully implement initiative to solve complex local, economic, environmental, political and social challenges affecting their communities.